By Spencer Campbell
Taking family or friends out to the ol’ ballgame is about the most American activity one can find. But it’s not always the most social outing. Traditional stadium seating, in which your party sits in a row, is akin to eating at a diner counter: Carrying on a conversation with an immediate neighbor works just fine. But talking to their neighbor, two seats away? Forget about it.
However, spectators at the Atlanta Braves’ new park won’t face any impediments to an engaging discussion about the team’s 2017 World Series prospects. (FYI: They’re not good.) When it debuts on April 14, SunTrust Park will feature 90 4Topps, the signature product from the Winston-Salem-based company of the same name. Simply speaking, 4Topps include a half-moon table that faces the field. Around the table but still facing the field are four swivel seats that at SunTrust will run from $113 to $130 per spectator. 4Topps can be installed anywhere but are typically placed behind box seating.
Founded in 2011 by Joe Bellissimo, 4Topps is a result of a want that needed to be filled. Working for the Winston-Salem Dash minor-league team during the construction of BB&T Ballpark, Bellissimo researched other parks for table-based seating options and found only “tables that didn’t have all four folks facing the field, which is a pretty important part of watching a ballgame,” says Deron Nardo, 4Topps’ president.
4Topps, which also feature ventilated seating that conforms to your backside as opposed to traditional hard plastic stadium chairs, can now be found in more than 100 stadiums around the world, including Durham Bulls Athletic Park and L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory. Most of the company’s business comes from owners retrofitting existing facilities — a necessary investment as massive home TVs and other entertainment options make it less attractive to attend games. “That trend really favors us,” Nardo says, “in the sense that teams have to look at new, creative ways to get people to the ballpark.”
Although 4Topps’ underlying strategy — fewer, but more expensive seats in the stadium — flies in the face of conventional sports-business wisdom, the shift in thinking seems to pay off for the company’s clients. More than half of the teams who have bought 4Topps have come back to purchase more. “They lose seats, but it adds a niche product that brings in premium dollars,” Nardo says. The seven-employee company’s revenue has increased by 50% to 75% annually, with the business earning a profit the last two years.
SunTrust Park will be the company’s most extensive project yet, Nardo says. Not only is it providing the flagship 4Topps, but its ventilated seating will also make up the first 15 rows of aisle seats along the first and third baselines. “The Braves job is upping the ante,” Nardo says, “and bringing us to a new level of installation.”
HIGH POINT — Nashville, Tenn.-based Pinnacle Financial Partners will acquire BNC Bancorp for about $1.9 billion. The deal values BNC’s stock at $35.70 a share, higher than its closing price of $33.20 the day before the deal was announced. The combined bank will have $20 billion in assets and about 120 offices in Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas.
WINSTON-SALEM — Iowa-based Rockwell Collins will acquire B/E Aerospace in an $8.3 billion deal that includes $1.9 billion in debt. Wellington, Fla.-based B/E makes aircraft seats and cabin equipment. The company employs about 1,300 people here, its largest employment hub. The deal is expected to close this spring; potential impact on local jobs is unclear.
WINSTON-SALEM — BB&T reported record profit of $2.3 billion for 2016, up 16.7% from the previous year. As of Dec. 31, the company has $219.3 billion in assets and operates 2,196 branches in 15 states and Washington, D.C.